Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Going for a Spin

Wednesday, 5:30 AM. February 1, 2012. Maybe I made a bad deal. I told Jason I'd meet him at a spin class at the gym, instead of riding outside in the rain. The trade off was an extra hour of sleep, and dry socks and shorts.

This bike feels foreign to me, and nothing like my Trek. At 5:45, the instructor dimmed the lights, and started the music. My first ever spin class is starting. What am I in for here??

Two songs into the class, this isn't so bad. I watch the pedals next to me, and the instructor to keep the same pace. The music is loud, so the instructions coming from the front of the room are muffled. She smiles, I smile, she looks concerned, I look concerned. This exchange where I have little clue what is being said reminds me of classes in school. Whispers, and background noise have never been a friend to me.

Fifteen minutes in, sweaty, and out of breath, I realize this is the real deal. We stand in the pedals and climb, we "jump" and I'm still not sure what that means. It's a kind of rocking forward and backward on the pedals, while standing up. We adjust the tension, and I'm sure I'm in the wrong "gear" even though there are really no gears at all.

Thirty minutes in, I have used up half my water. This is a tough workout, and I am enjoying it alot. We do a series of Jumps, climbs, and sprints.

Forty five minutes in, she announces that now we will warm down. So as quickly as it started, it ended. We got off the bikes. Several long stretches, which I found to be more difficult than the peddaling, and we were done.

Same time Friday. I think I'll be there. Maybe I'll take an extra minute and adjust the seat up, and get the pedal straps more comfortable. This could be a good deal after all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The last 12 miles...

November was an outstanding month on the bike. On November 25, Thanksgiving day, I blew past my record month (630 miles - September 2010) while out on a early ride around Tim's Ford lake. Still pedaling, I day dreamed about a new goal. I set a new goal with 5 days left, to finish with 700 miles.

Arriving back home, I noticed my back wheel had a wobble. Loose spoke? No, worse, a broken spoke. I don't recall hitting anything. Maybe it broke when I crossed the rumble strip several times to avoid cars. I called Brian Schaeffer, and he said to bring it over. Now it was Thanksgiving day, and he was willing to fix it if possible. He is that kind of guy. I try to not take advantage of friends like that. He is great mechanic, and a true friend. Long story short, the bike couldn't be fixed, and will have to go to the shop. No problem, I'll ride the hybrid, Trek 800 for a week or so.

Robin had a holiday basketball tournament in Chapel Hill, so there would only be short rides, or nighttime rides Thanksgiving weekend. And, we took a long overdue trip to west Tennessee to see family. It was a really good trip, but only a one niter, and I didn't take a bike.

Monday morning, Jason and I rode early, and got in 27.5 miles. The hybrid was heavy, but comfortable, and I was able to keep up with Jason on his Fuji with the carbon frame. We averaged 15.7 mph, which included Magnolia the easy way. Glad I didn't slow him down.

On the last day of November, I was at 688.1 miles, and 12 miles short of my new goal. The temperature was 48 degrees and dropping. It was late afternoon. There was a steady rain, and wind blew from the northwest at 10 mph.

I had three options:
1) be satisfied with 688
2) go to Harvey's and ride the indoor bike for an hour
3) Get on the bike and ride

If I had chosen one of the first two, I wouldn't have bothered blogging about it!

I got on the bike and pointed it into the wind. With the headlight on, and red taillight blinking, I made my way down Hwy 269 toward Normandy. Left on Carr Creek Rd, up a mile long hill, down Flowertown Rd, right on 269, and back to work. 12.5 miles.

Once good and wet, the ride was really enjoyable. At first I forced myself to smile as I rode into the wind and rain. The gurus call this creative visualization. I reminded myself that this is where I wanted to be, and that I chose to do this.

A couple of dogs jumped sideways when they heard me go by. Even they were in a state of shock, and didn't offer a chase. At the bottom of the hill, on Carr Creek road, I knew I had done the right thing. Climbing that hill felt good. There was no traffic. The heavier bike was steady in the rain and wind. Returning to the office on North Atlantic Street, I tried to imagine what people in cars were saying. "Mommy can I ride my bike when we get home? He's riding HIS bike," and, "That guy is crazy," and probably, "hey, was that a bike?" Now riding through the rain, and with the wind at by back, I couldn't stop myself from smiling.

I got dried off, changed back into my work clothes, and finished the day. There was no need to tell anybody at work what I had just done. I didn't want any eye rolling, or questions.

Jerry Rice, the pro football player gets credit for this quote:
"Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't."
Jerry would beat defensive backs on Sunday, because of the legendary workouts he did all week long. And toward the end of his playing days, he was almost twice their age.

To me, it's about finishing well, and doing what I say I'm going to do.
The last 12 miles...were worth it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who Moved Sheptember?

Did shomebody move Sheptember?

September blew by! Maybe I was too busy living life to write about it, and maybe that's not all bad.

It was a month filled with birthday parties, soccer games, basketball practices, 3rd grade homework, and bike rides. September 10, I turned 45 years old! And even harder to believe, Karen, our oldest, turned 17 on September 14. Seems like I'm the one who should be 17.
At 17 you still have a chance to act like a kid, and get away with it.

On the bike it was a record month...629 miles. Its been a gradual increase every month this year, and I take for granted how far that is. I don't really think about it, or I might stop, and say, That's enough. Or like Forrest G. said..." I'm tired... Think I'll go home now."
The last century of the year also happened on September 11. The Elk River 100 was challenging, and a blast. Several Category 5 climbs (thats a really steep and long hill), heat, and a thunderstorm. Felt great to finish.

Physically, my blood pressure is measuring normal, and my weight, at 185, is in the normal range for my BMI. This too has been gradual, and in the last 2 years, I have lost 60 pounds.
right after the Elk River, I was at 178. I was probably in Junior high when I was at 178!
My goal is to stay in the 180's. So far so good.

On the worldwide stage, mom went to Egypt, and returned safely. Egypt may never be the same...they had a great time.
Robin has amazed me with her discipline and dedication to running and lifting weights for basketball. Every day almost she has done one or both. They have a chance to be a good team this year, and being young, for the next couple of years.
Our house got a new room in September. We had Lee Cole remodel our dusty unlevel screened in back porch into a wonderful room. It's Robin's bedroom for now. Later, it may be an extra den. It is nice having more space, and it turned out great.

At church, September is always a season of renewal, and change. The new year starts, and new kids come into the youth department, and the seniors are finally gone to the college and career class. Bittersweet this September because Kristi decided to step away from teaching in the youth dept. She said she needed to be in a class, not teach a class. I can understand and respect that. Kristi has a wonderful way of relating to the kids, and they listen to her. I miss her! When things got too serious, one of us would go into a Sean Connery "mode" and we would be ok.

(In my best Sean Connery voice...)
Sho...did shumbody... move ....Sheptember? (right eyebrow down, head tilt, pause...)
No.....Sheptember ...moved!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hurts So Good!

Saturday, August 21, was an event called the Murfreesboro Hot 100 Bike ride. It was definately hot, and the ride turned out to be 102 miles. My buddy Jason and I made the pre-dawn drive to Murfreesboro, and joined about 500 other bike riders.

There were shorter routes, but we chose to do the entire 100. This was Jason's first 100 mile ride, and my third. Me being the wiley old veteran, I planned to survive the first half, and try to finish the second half in a strong, agressive way. You know, crowds of people pushing in on me as I approach the finish, me double fist pumping the air as I cross the finish line...

Well, as with most plans I make, it didn't turn out quite that way. The ride was incredibly fast starting out. Something like 17+ mph during the first 50 miles. Then I found myself hanging on through the heat and leg cramps to survive the last few miles to the finish. This wiley old veteran was glad to see the end of this ride! Jason, on the other hand, managed through the heat, and finished strong. I should have paid more attention to his strategy.

It was a huge day, and I'm glad to have been there, and done that.
Now, three days later, the muscles are still feeling the effects of the effort. I'm sore! Its a good kind of sore. Like after you pitch a complete game, and your team wins, and your arm is sore. Or maybe like after you clean out the shed or garage, and it looks great, and you finally know what is in every corner, and every container, but your back is a little sore. Being sore means you did something!

Recovery time is something that I have come to expect. I will be 45 years old in about three weeks. Rest and recovery are just a fact of life. It makes the experience all the sweeter, because now, unlike my 20's and 30's, I respect the effort, and this is a forced time to reflect on what just happened. Saturday was a really good day. I got to ride with my buddy and be there when he reached his goal of completing a century. He did it in a strong and convincing way. The cool thing about that is, he is getting stronger, and just getting started. And, at the same time, I was able to persevere through the heat and cramps to finish as well.

During the last couple of days, I ask myself. Is it worth it? Physically I mean? What drives me to push like that, and know that I'm going to hurt for a week or so? There are moments in the night that the cramps in my legs make me jump from the bed and hop all around, trying to stretch out the contracted muscles. So I make it to the kitchen, drink some more V8 Splash or orange juice, and eat another banana. Then I look at the clock, and wonder if I will get any real rest before going to work.

I think maybe I still do these rides to prove to myself that I can do something that most people can't do. It is also proving to myself that I still have the heart of a warrior, to face something, fight with it, and kick it's butt. That I can compete, finish, and win.
There are guys in our bike club that are in their 60s and 70s. What drives them? I plan to ask them that very question when I get a chance. I respect their perserverance, and the pain that they put themselves through.

Yeah, it hurts. But its a good kind of hurt. I have to smile as I get up and walk from my chair in the office, to do the simplest of tasks. Don't let it show. Stand up straight, shoulders back, walk without limping, keep smiling. I can't wait until the next long ride.

Friday, June 4, 2010

And the number is.....

There is a TV show called, "Numbers." I don't quite get all the connections they make between the math and the un-mathmatical events of the show, but there is something interesting about it.

A number can remind you of something, and may trigger thoughts and emotions without even a word of explanation. In baseball the numbers 56, 755, 2632, all mean something special. Joe Dimmaggio got a base hit in 56 straight games, Henry Aaron hit 755 home runs, and Cal Ripken, Jr. played in 2632 consecutive games over a 17 year period.

So what are my important numbers? 1, because I am married to Terri, and she is the one and only one for me. 3, because I'm the third child in the family, and because we have 3 children. 13 was my baseball number, and probably my favorite number. 1966 because its the year my old truck was made.

The most recent number that means something special to me is 197.

Without much fanfare, but with much pedaling, walking, sweating, and stomach growling, my weight is now 197. This is down from 227 a year ago, and down from a high of 243 about 3 years ago. 30 pounds lost in the last year is doable, and with some perserverence and changes in diet, I think almost anybody can do this.

With children that are 17, 15, and 8, I hope this leaner, healthier version of me will be able to run faster and jump higher, and live longer.

One really interesting thing about this slow transformation is the support and encouragement from friends and family. Each person that has shown any level of support towards me has their own battles and success stories. All worth listening to and learning from. In some way, my results are encouraging to them.

I am lucky to have a few people that I can share my goals, fears, frustrations, and successes with. It is those people that matter, and make a difference in the final results.

It's these daily successes and failures that make life interesting.
I think back to Dimaggio, Aaron, and Ripken. They were great at what they did, they were consistent, and it was proved over a long period of time. And somewhere in there, a number ends up being more than just a number.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gettin Healthy!

In the last 16 months, I have had some success at getting healthy. My blood pressure is down in the normal range, and my weight is reduced by 35 pounds. Its been a combination of eating better, exercising more, and I've become a calorie nerd. I know my BMR, my BMI, and I track my BP and my Wt. For the last several months, I have written down Everything I ate, and counted the calories. Also, I have tracked my exercise,and calories burned a day. Someone asked me recently what keeps me motivated. What a great question! I think of two words...Fear, and respect. Fear of getting old and slow. Fear of having a stroke or heart attack. Fear of not being able to keep up with two teenage daughters, an eight year old son, and a wife that I'm crazy about. So there, I said it. Fear motivates me. Respect means I need to maintain and improve what God gave me. What is going to help me maintain and stay healthy? My plan is to strike a better balance in several areas of my life, and have more respect. Respect for my body and what goes in it. Respect for exercise, and the challenges that push me to the limit physically. As I get older, I'm going for respect, not fear. People see a frosty at Wendys, and I see the 30 minutes of bike riding, or hour of walking that it takes me to burn up those 335 delicious calories. Gettin healthy means you look at things a little differently than most people.

Monday, April 26, 2010

100 Miles on a bicycle

A 100 mile bike ride, a Century. It sounds both mythical and insane to those who have never considered it. To people who ride bikes from time to time, it still sounds crazy. To a small group of bike commuters, and weekend warriors, it may sound doable. But to the dedicated, mile tracking, map my ride types, it sounds like a fun challenge.

For me, a Century was something that I wanted to repeat. I did a century in 1993, a week before our first child was born. I was 28 years old then, and in pretty good shape. One of my fitness goals has been to complete another century. Thanks to my new riding buddy Jason, I had logged enough miles in the last couple of months or so that the idea wasn't just vanity. So - This past weekend I did it! A Century! It feels different at 44, but the sense of accomplishment is the same. In 1993, I carried a pager. In 2010, I had a cell phone, and some in our group had GPS on their bikes. Today, there are mileage training charts, and a wealth of information to help prepare for a Century. Bikes are lighter, and better built. My old bike has been well taken care of, and I repeated on the same 1989 Rally Nishike Suntour that I rode the first Century on. Have I wanted a new bike, sure I have. Have I been willing to spend $700 to $1000, not yet. Our local Bike shop, Woody's Bicycles, in Sewanee Tennessee, has helped me maintain my bike, and it's still serving me well.

The ride was the United Way Dogwood 100, in Winchester, TN, on April 24, 2010. The organizers did a great job of putting together a class event, and the road was very well marked.

I had only two goals starting out on this ride. 1) survive the mountain climb, and 2) complete the 65 mile ride. In the back corner of my mind, I know the 100 mile was out there, but with the bad weather moving in, I would be happy with 65 miles.

So this past weekend a couple of cool things happenned. The obvious is the completion of a 102 mile bike ride, that went up and down Mt. Eagle mountain. The second cool thing, that no one can plan, is making a new friend. About mile 10, there was a cyclist on the side of the road, finishing a tire repair. I stopped, with another guy to offer help, or just encouragement. Fixing a flat out on the road is never easy. The cyclist name was Caroline. And she had her flat fixed, and was pumping her tire back up and was well in control of the situation. She looked tough, and was in great shape for bike riding. The guys in my group started back out. I waited, for reasons I can't explain, for Caroline. She insisted that I didn't have to wait for her, and I told her that those guys go faster than my pace, and if I tried to stick with them, they would drop me sooner or later anyway. I told her I'd be happy tag along with her. I even said "if you want some alone time, I'm good with that, but I can't keep up with those guys all day." She said fine.

Caroline didn't say much for several miles. Maybe it was the frustration of the early flat tire, then she asked me, "how many miles ya got on those bike shorts?" From that point on, as the miles passed, I learned some things about her, and I probably told way too much about me.

So we traveled the next 92 miles together. The first 30 miles or so, I felt great. The early adrenaline, and the excitement of the ride carried me down the road. I found myself coasting, and taking a glance over my shoulder. Everytime, she said, "you don't have to wait on me." At mile 35 or so, we had a rest stop. This is where we heard the first big rumble of thunder. The people at the rest stop spoke of squall lines, tornado warnings, and torrential rain. They looked at their weather enabled phones and shook their heads at us. A couple of the serious guys decided to quit, and they caught a ride back to the parking lot. I don't mind the rain, (20 year old bike remember?) and having a fair skin complexion, rain is much preferred to heat and sun. Caroline was determined and insistent about continuing. She was there to do the 100 miles. She was the ONLY rider that showed up, and signed up, for 100 miles. I had signed up for 65 miles, and in the back of my mind I knew I'd decide at the last minute to stretch for a 100 or not.

We left the rest stop. The rain started, and we rode straight into the storm. Now we began the 2.6 mile climb up Mt. Eagle Mountain. The rain blew sideways, and the thunder and lightening was terrible, and we pedaled on. The road was perfectly smooth, and freshly paved, a nice surprise. About halfway into the climb, my legs started cramping, and my heart was beating faster than a teenage kid doing a drum solo. I wanted to pedal, but couldn't. So I got off and walked. The mountain had slowed me down, but it didn't stop me. The sag wagon offered me a ride. The hot shot that had already mailed it in was riding in the front seat, and I think he wanted me to get in the van too. In my mind, he needed me to validate his decision to quit, and agree with him what a terrible day it was to be on a bike. I refused. I walked on. Caroline was gone ahead of me and out of sight. After about 10 minutes of walking, I got my legs back, and my heart rate slowed, and I got back on my bike, and pedaled. I finally caught up with the other riders at Woody's bike shop in Sewanee. (link below)

A three mile decent off of a mountain is what every chubby bike rider lives for. It didn't matter to me that the pavement was wet, or that the wind had blown fresh green leaves and twigs onto the road. You tighten your chin strap and go with it. How many chances do you have to go 40+ mph, without busting a gut? It was awesome. At the bottom, as I turned to the right and coasted, I waited on Caroline for the last time. After this moment, she would wait on me, patiently, many times. We pedaled our bikes through the headwinds with our climbing gears. It was almost funny how hard the wind blew right in our faces. Just about the time I would feel like giving in to mother nature, we would turn and ride beside, or with the wind, and I'd hardly have to pedal at all.

On one of these flat sections with the wind at our backs, we were shouted at from a mini-van on the side of the road. There was a bike rider, and his family, and he was loading up his bike into the van. He had suffered his second flat tire, and used all the tubes he had, so he was done. He offered us some of his food and gatorade, and we accepted, because we were both low. Bike riders are like that. Maybe because we spend so much time alone, we are always ready to help one another. They had animal crackers, and we took them too. We later talked about how the animal crackers probably belonged to their small daughter who was watching a dvd in the middle seat. We had just taken food from a small child! Not a great way to build positive momentum, and stay mentally focused on a bike ride. They were gracious, and kind, and we were glad for the break, and the food. We wished them well, and rode on.

As mile 55 got closer, it was decision time. The split for the 65 mile ride, or the 100 mile ride. Turn right and make it 10 miles back to the hot shower, and the car. Or, turn left, and stretch myself for 45 more miles, hoping my leg cramps didn't start back up. I was recovered from the climb, but tired and wet. The rain had been constant. The wind was steady at about 25mph and gusting to who knows what. Caroline had ridden out in front of me, and I struggled to keep up. I made up my mind. I wanted to go home. At the split, my buddy Caroline was about 50 yards or so ahead of me, and took a quick left. I wanted to go right. The arrow pointed right, my mind said go right, but I turned left, and followed. I hoped I'd catch up with her and say a quick good bye, and it's been fun, and maybe she might even call it a day too. The storms were about to kick back up, and the hot showers were less than an hour away. She stopped on a bridge a couple of miles later, and waited on me. It was at the foot of a long, ugly climb. She assured me we could do this. I was within 40 or so miles now of completing a century for the second time. How many more times would I be in this position? I wanted to press on, but I had my doubts because of my earlier leg cramps. We took a long break there, and the decision was made, press on to 100! We pedaled on. She slowed often to look back and make sure I was still pedaling. I had to walk again later as the leg cramps, and hills both returned at the same time. We kept pedaling southwest, into the storm. My hope was, as we kept pedaling into and beside the wind, we would eventually turn North, and the same headwind that we had struggled against all day would then become our "best good friend". A 30 mph tailwind means you barely have to pedal. If I could just survive the headwinds for a few more miles.

We pedaled past abandoned rest stops. These people were volunteers and didn't have to be out in this weather. Who could blame them? But a little gatorade and and a banana left in a box somewhere for us would have been nice. Caroline found a faucet at the back corner of a little country church, and we refilled our water bottles. Her experience and survival skills kept us hydrated. And we pedaled on.

Just about the time we would get agitated with the headwinds, we would see something unusual. For example, there was an exotic animal sanctuary on the route. We saw, and were seen by llamas and camels. One good camel sighting in Middle Tennessee is good for 15 minutes of conversation. Then there were all the normal farm critters like donkeys, horses, cows, peacocks, chickens, pigs, goats, and at least 500 dogs.

At about mile 70, a blue truck slowed beside me, and I recognized the driver to be one of the volunteers supporting the ride. He said there was a rest stop at mile 75. We knew we could make that. When we got there, he was the rest stop! He had a small cooler and a box of food. We took shelter under a big porch, and listened to the rain, and thunder. He said we could stop if we wanted to, and he would give us a ride back. He said there would be no more support for the last 25 miles. We were in fact, the only two riders on the road. Everybody else had either finished their rides of 65, 35, or 10 miles, or sacked it up because of the weather. He was nice, but a little confused as to why we would even think about continuing. Again, I thought about that hot shower, and sacking it up for the day. But I wanted to ride on! Caroline had no second thoughts. She was there to do the whole ride, with or without me. We left the safety and comfort of the porch. A couple of more climbs, and 25 miles separated us the finish line.

The last climb was about a mile long, but the grade was not too bad. Somewhere around 20 miles to go something amazing happenned. The headwind became a tailwind. The last 25 miles was covered in 1.5 hours, a respectable time given the distance we had already traveled. The rain continued, the wind, thankfully, continued, and so did we. As we approached the start / finish line, I realized that it had been an amazing and unforgettable day. There was no one there to greet us, but the showers and restrooms, thankfully, were open, because there was an indoor pool. They had left us two styrofoam boxes of lunch from earlier in the day. The ride was over.

At the beginning of the day, who would have guessed that the guy with the old bike, and the girl with the early flat, would be the only ones to complete the whole ride? We did it!

Caroline said it was 102 miles to be exact. We had been on the road 8.5 hours, including all the stops. There is no way I would have continued and finished the whole ride without Caroline. She is one tough girl. And she was a great encourager to me. Maybe I will have another chance to tag along with Caroline on a long ride, maybe not. I sure hope I get to. it is truly amazing what the human body can do when there is a basic level of fitness, a whole lot of determination, and a friend at your side.

The Dogwood 100